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Dayton wants education money added to legislative budget deal

ST. PAUL-Minnesota legislative leaders announced a budget agreement Friday night, after five days of negotiating with Gov. Mark Dayton, but the governor said he wants more education funding. Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk, D-Cook, and House Spea...

ST. PAUL-Minnesota legislative leaders announced a budget agreement Friday night, after five days of negotiating with Gov. Mark Dayton, but the governor said he wants more education funding.

Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk, D-Cook, and House Speaker Kurt Daudt, R-Crown, emerged from the governor's residence to tell reporters they had an overall budget agreement, but would not release specifics until early today. They said that with the agreement, and fast work, they could meet their constitutional deadline to adjourn for the year.

"We're going home before midnight Monday," Bakk promised.

Added Daudt: "We feel like we are there."

However, after looking over the "deal" Bakk and Daudt gave him, Democrat Dayton delivered a counter offer. Dayton wants more money in education.


He proposes adding $150 million to education beyond what the Daudt-Bakk plan contains, including funding half-day universal pre-kindergarten. He also wants to increase the per-pupil school funding formula 1.5 percent a year.

Legislative leaders said there was not enough money for universal kindergarten. Bakk told reporters that he expects lawmakers to pass the education funding bill as he and Daudt propose.

Dayton told the St. Paul Pioneer Press that he was not part of the agreement Bakk and Daudt announced.

"We proceeded, all of us apace, in that room, House, Senate and myself with our staffs working it out until about 4 o'clock this afternoon, and then they said they wanted to go in and just have the legislators discuss it, which I took to mean that they were going to talk about some of the logistical considerations," Dayton said Friday night. "All of a sudden ... two hours later, they have this deal the two of them had agreed to ... without my participation. I haven't had a chance to pursue with them why they felt the need to do that."

Dayton said that what he sees as lack of education funding is the only thing he knows about that "could stand in the way of the overall agreement."

The governor said he would hold off on complete agreement on any of the budget plan until he sees budget spreadsheets.

"The devil's in the details, but we'll see how it proceeds," he said.

Bakk had a one-word answer to what could derail the agreement: "math." If spreadsheets House and Senate staff draw up match what was negotiated, Bakk and Daudt said they have a deal.


Negotiations have gone on for days to write a $40 billion-plus, two-year budget.

Daudt and Bakk said the likelihood was slim of passing bills funding more transportation projects or cutting taxes. Bakk said negotiators focused on eight must-pass spending bills, but transportation and taxes are not mandatory this year.

"We are still talking about that," Daudt said about tax and transportation issues. "If we don't get to those issues this year, there will be significant money on the bottom line" and lawmakers may consider them next year.

The leaders said they do not know how much the state would spend under their agreement.

While details were scarce, here are a few items Daudt and Bakk mentioned:

-- State-run colleges and universities probably will not get enough money to freeze tuitions for the next two years.

-- MinnesotaCare, which Republicans wanted to fold to save money, will survive as a state-subsidized insurance program for the poor, and a working group will study its future.

-- Nursing homes will get more funds.


-- No public works financing legislation, known as the bonding bill, is likely other than a small one funding flood recovery.

-- Discussions continue on a Dayton proposal to require vegetative buffers around all of the state water as a way to reduce water pollution.

Bakk and Daudt said that while they think their agreement will pass, all lawmakers might not be happy.

"Everyone walks away from the table grumbling a little bit," Bakk said.

With a Monday adjournment deadline, lawmakers may be forced to work around-the-clock until then.

House-Senate conference committees were expected to begin negotiating final spending bills late Friday. In general, Bakk and Daudt are giving the committees general spending targets, with committee members left with the job of making specific decisions.

Even as legislative leaders struggled to end the current legislative session, they set March 8 as the beginning of next year's session.

Also Friday, senators approved, and sent to the governor, a bill allowing Minnesota drivers to use smartphones as proof of vehicle insurance.


The governor signed a bill to create a working group to develop a system to provide the public information about missing elderly people with dementia.

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